This is a novel about the persistence of longing in which the twin lives of the title character blur and overlap. Bird puts her child on the bus for school and passes the day with her baby. Interwoven into the passage of the day are phone calls from a promiscuous, unmarried friend, and Bird’s recollection of the feral, reckless love she knew as a young woman. It’s a day infused with fear and longing, an exploration of the ways the past shapes and dislodges the present.In the present moment, Bird dutifully cares for her husband, infant, older child. But at the same time Bird inhabits this rehabilitated domestic life, she re-lives an unshakeable passion: Mickey, the lover she returns to with what feels like a migratory impulse, Mickey, whose movements and current lovers she still tracks. With Mickey, she slummed and wandered–part-time junkie, tourist of the low-life–a life of tantalizing peril. This can’t last, Bird thought, and it was true. Noy Holland’s writing is lyrical, fired by a heightened eroticism in which every sight and auditory sensation is charged with arousal. The writing in this book – Noy Holland’s first novel — is fearless in its depiction of sexual appetite and obsessive love. It sheds light on the terror of abandonment and the terrible knowledge that we are helpless to protect not only ourselves but the people we most love.
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NOY HOLLAND is the author of Bird: A Novel as well as three story collections, Swim for the Little One First, What Begins with Bird, and The Spectacle of the Body. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the MacDowell Colony and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, she teaches writing in the graduate program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
-Christine Schutt, author of Florida "In wonderfully cadenced and concise prose, Swim for the Little One First cracks the chests of struggling lives to show the hearts beating within. These stories of difficulty are not sentimental, nor are they artificially cold: they are wonderfully, nakedly human."
-Brian Evenson, author of The Wavering Knife "The syncopated rhythms of Noy Holland's rapturous prose jolt the heart and spark the senses. If you can bear to explore the limits of your own compassion, open this book to 'Blood Country' or 'Milk River.' You cannot prepare yourself: you can only surrender."
-Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the River and In This Light "Holland's scrupulousness and respect for the language keep this text alive and kicking. What Begins with Bird is a book to be read slowly and thoughtfully, shared, passed along." -John Edgar Wideman "From broken phrase to sentence, from sentence to paragraph, from paragraph to scene and scene to story, Noy Holland's aims are ambitious, her tone right, her diction masterful, and she spells her stories out in bites of beautifully lyrical but bitter prose and with an ardent grimness of eye that is both unsettling and intensely satisfying. What Begins with Bird is a remarkable achievement." -William Gass